Italian FM: The central command of the European operation "Aspides" for the Red Sea is in Greece

Aspides

"We will participate in this operation together with France, Germany and Greece. However, other countries of the Union should be added," said the Italian Foreign Minister

The Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Tajani, referred to Greece's participation in the European defence operation "Aspides" to protect commercial ships from Houthi attacks in the Red Sea in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

"The European institutions are working on this business step by step. My country will have the responsibility for the operational party of the mission at sea, but the central command from the land operation will be based in Greece", said the Italian foreign minister.

He added that Italy would initially cooperate with the destroyer Caio Duilio.

"We will participate in this operation together with France, Germany and Greece. However, other countries of the Union should be added," said Tajani.

In relation to the prospect of weakening the Houthi attacks, Tajani expressed the hope for a deterrent effect after the start of the European mission, which "can contribute to limiting the intensity of the war in Israel, with the priority of releasing the hostages and truce."

"We are not deterred by the threats of the Houthis. We defend the trade movement; we don't attack anyone, but we don't want anyone to attack us. There must be free sea traffic: if there are attacks, we will respond by defending Italian merchant ships. This should be very clear," added the Italian minister.

Meanwhile, American forces carried out air strikes against five missiles in Yemen on Sunday – one designed for land attack and the others for targeting ships, the US military said.

The strikes came a day after US and UK forces launched a wave of air raids against Yemen‘s Iran-backed Houthis – their third round of joint military action in response to the rebels’ persistent attacks on shipping.

US forces “conducted a strike in self-defense against a Houthi … land attack cruise missile” and later struck “four anti-ship cruise missiles, all of which were prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea”, Central Command (Centcom) said on social media.

American forces “identified the missiles in Huothi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined they presented an imminent threat to US Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region,” Centcom added.

The Houthis began targeting Red Sea shipping in November, saying they were hitting Israel-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israel-Hamas war.

US and UK forces responded with strikes against the Houthis, who have since declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets as well.

Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam has said the Houthis are willing to use new tactics to stop the American-British aggression against Yemen.

He said, our “decision to support Gaza is firm and principled and will not be affected by any attack. Regarding Yemeni military capabilities, we would like to stress that they are not easy to destroy and have been rebuilt during years of harsh war. Instead of escalation and igniting a new front in the region, America and Britain should submit to international public opinion, which demands an immediate halt to the Israeli aggression, lift the siege on Gaza, and stop protecting Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people”.

Anger over Israel’s devastating campaign in Gaza – which began after an unprecedented Hamas attack on 7 October – has grown across the Middle East, stoking violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

On 28 January, a drone slammed into a base in Jordan, killing three US soldiers and wounding more than 40 – an attack Washington blamed on Iran-backed forces.

The US responded on Friday with a series of unilateral strikes on Iran-linked targets in Syria and Iraq.

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